All hail the taboo-breaking Olympic swimmer unafraid to mention her period
No woman should be
by Julia Baumel
On Friday, a female Olympic swimmer smashed a universal taboo by mentioning she was on her period in a post-race interview.
Fu Yuanhui, 20, represented China in the Olympics and took home a bronze medal in the 100 meter backstroke. Her name is now arguably more recognizable than the names of some gold medalists – not just for her performance in the pool.
After competing in the 4×100 meter medley relay and finishing in a disappointing fourth place, Fu told reporters that she was weak and tired during the race because she had gotten her period the previous day. “But this isn’t an excuse for not swimming well,” she clarified.
Thank you, Fu Yuanhui, for using your voice to challenge taboos about menstruation. https://t.co/O1mqt6BsFQ
— Melinda Gates (@melindagates) August 16, 2016
Fu Yuanhui dismantles female stereotypes too. She's talking about her menstrual cycle at the Olympics. Wow. Remove shame, stigma & silence.
— A (@metaphor_muse) August 16, 2016
This topic is considered taboo in the world of sports, and especially in China. The country doesn’t air commercials for feminine sanitary products on primetime television because they are considered “inappropriate.” Given the stigma surrounding menstruation and feminine hygiene products in China, the fact that a Chinese athlete has spoken about this topic is especially remarkable.
The online community has praised her for starting an important conversation and bringing light to an annoying reality for women in sports.
— Kedzie Teller (@Kedz) August 16, 2016
This is amazing. Women have periods. Sometimes periods suck. I love that she talked about it: https://t.co/0wSDMdDy07
— Dara Resnik (@BadassMomWriter) August 16, 2016
Yuanhui’s honesty is absolutely refreshing in a sports culture that still sees women’s periods as a taboo subject. https://t.co/JrKC0tdrq5
— Mira. (@MiraAbdul13) August 16, 2016
Not many women have been brave enough to speak about periods. And those who have spoken out are usually shamed for doing so.
Last year, as part of a school project, Rupi Kaur posted a photo showing a small amount of blood on her pants. Instagram removed the photo.
In 2015, another female athlete, tennis player Heather Watson, cited “girl things” as a reason for her disappointing performance at the Australian Open.
Women shouldn’t feel ashamed to share stories about bleeding through their pants in public and running the mile with a pad.
It’s important for girls to realize that, while periods can be inconvenient, they are a normal part of life. Even Olympians have to deal with them. Why should discussion of the topic be considered anything but normal? Fu Yuanhui shared her comments nonchalantly and set the stage for all women to do the same.
As we continue to work toward more positive perceptions of women in sports, we should be able to include this topic in the conversation.